TechResult, an IT management and solution provider based in Brazil, wanted to bridge the gap between its developers and its project managers. Developers worked in Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate with MSDN. Project managers gained insights and generated invoices and other reports using Microsoft Project Server 2010, but developers did not sufficiently update data in that software. TechResult deployed the Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and Project Server Integration Feature Pack to simplify data exchange. Now, with a single source of truth, developers and project managers can collaborate more easily. Project managers cut time spent updating the status of projects by 70–80 percent and use their new visibility into projects to improve governance, manage risks, and make better decisions. TechResult also uses the feature pack to improve client visibility into projects.Situation
TechResult is a technology services provider with specialties in application lifecycle management (ALM), enterprise project management (EPM), and software development. A Microsoft Gold Certified Partner with a competency in ALM, TechResult is headquartered in Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil. It has 190 employees at two locations, and its 2010 revenues were U.S.$10 million.
||With Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and Project Server Integration Feature Pack, we are saving 70–80 percent of the time that project managers used to spend talking about status updates.
||Daniel Franco Abrahão de Oliveira, ALM Team Manager, TechResult
One of the company’s major efforts since its founding has been Construweb, an Internet-enabled civil engineering software solution developed for FINEP, the Brazilian government innovation agency. The company does many other projects for government clients, and it also does outsourcing and consulting for a variety of Brazilian and international companies. Some of these projects are executed in a “software factory,” where they are managed by dedicated project managers. Other projects are managed by technical leaders on small teams.
Most TechResult project managers conduct their work using Microsoft Project Server 2010. Indeed, TechResult uses the software to generate invoices and other financial reports for the Brazilian government and other clients.
However, software developers at TechResult do most of their work in the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate with MSDN development system. The developers are quite happy with this software, with Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 (the collaboration platform at the core of the Microsoft Visual Studio ALM solution), and with the “agile” development methodology that the software supports. “We have some powerful tools in Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 to aid in the technical details of managing development projects,” says Daniel Franco Abrahão de Oliveira, ALM Team Manager at TechResult. These tools include checklists of very specific work items that serve as both an agenda and a record of when and how the work has been completed.
The problem TechResult faced was that developers resented having to exit Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate and report their hours in Project Server 2010. “Depending on how many projects a developer had, it could take up to 30 minutes a day—although it wasn’t so much the time required as the psychological hurdle of going to another tool,” says Oliveira. “They didn’t see reporting hours as part of their job. Because the reporting wasn’t integrated with their daily work, they saw it as an extra hardship and weren’t very faithful about doing it regularly.” The result was that invoices and other financial documents generated from Project Server 2010 were often incomplete.
Because the data in Project Server 2010 was not always accurate or up to date, project managers lacked a “single source of truth” on internal operations. They did not trust reports and dashboards in Project Server 2010, yet they were not comfortable using Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, in part because they used traditional rather than agile methodologies.
“People could see reports in Project Server 2010, but they didn’t believe that the reports represented the actual status of the projects,” says Oliveira. “They would have to ask developers every time they wanted to know the status.” On a typical five-person project, the manager would spend one hour each day gathering information, and hold a one-hour team meeting each week—and neither of these activities was popular with developers, either.
Without trustworthy, objective, real-time data in Project Server 2010, executives had difficulty evaluating risks such as whether a project was running late. They also lacked ways to verify time spent on tasks against employees’ daily time-recording punch cards. This contributed to the company’s difficulties in evaluating the productivity of its development teams.
In a sense, the TechResult staff was divided into two camps: developers and project managers. Developers used agile project methodologies in Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010; project managers used traditional waterfall methodologies in Project Server 2010. Because the two camps’ software tools did not share data well, it was difficult for the company’s employees to effectively collaborate and for each camp to gain the value that the other side’s perspective would bring. TechResult wanted a way to connect them. Solution
In December 2010, TechResult learned about a prerelease version of a new Microsoft feature pack to simplify data exchange between Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and Project Server 2010. The Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and Project Server Integration Feature Pack synchronizes planning and status information between the two software solutions, bridging the gap between project managers and developers.
||Project managers use the Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and Project Server Integration Feature Pack to gain more visibility into the development process.
||Daniel Franco Abrahão de Oliveira
ALM Team Manager TechResult
TechResult decided to implement the feature pack in a pilot project, a new release of Construweb. The project involved seven team members and ran all of the software on a dedicated server computer with an Intel Core i5-650 processor, virtualized using the Hyper-V technology in the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise operating system. In addition to the two major solutions connected by the feature pack, this software includes the Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise data management system, which TechResult uses to store data and builds reports, and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, which TechResult uses to share documents and artifacts.
Out of the box, the feature pack offers a connection between the two systems that can be adjusted to the level of granularity the company desires. Thus project managers need not see work items at the level of detail that developers use in Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010. Instead those work items can be rolled up into higher level tasks for display in Project Server 2010.
TechResult is doing some additional configuration to the feature pack to improve time-tracking capabilities. “In Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, we won’t just report the number of hours spent on a task, we will also report when the task was started and finished,” Oliveira says. “Thus, a developer won’t be able to close a work item without reporting how many hours are left to complete it.” The feature pack will automatically transfer that information to Project Server 2010. The developer won’t need to enter any information in Project Server 2010.
Project managers and developers now use this software link to collaborate. “For example, the project managers are involved in creating tasks,” says Oliveira. Developers then break them down into smaller work items in Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010. The project manager is able to continue to track them through the life of the project.
The pilot project was very successful. “Other project managers have been eager to take the feature pack companywide,” says Oliveira. That rollout will begin in May 2011.
The feature pack has also intrigued several TechResult clients. “We have one client who has been using Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and now wants to use Project Server 2010,” says Oliveira. “And we have other clients who use Project Server 2010 and are now considering Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010. They are excited because the feature pack will provide a bridge between the two solutions, making each of them more effective.”
Meanwhile, an ongoing initiative involves TechResult developers who use non-Microsoft development platforms. “We do some gaming development in the Unity authoring tool using the Eclipse environment,” says Oliveira. These developers are starting to use Microsoft Visual Studio Team Explorer Everywhere 2010 to collaborate across those platforms with Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010. Thus the feature pack also makes all of their project status information available through Project Server 2010.
TechResult expects to implement additional customizations to the feature pack or Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 to address evolving project management needs. Oliveira says, “Reports have always been easy to build in Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010—but now we can make them available through Project Server 2010.”Benefits
TechResult is using the Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and Project Server Integration Feature Pack to save time for project managers, enhance project management capabilities, improve governance, make better decisions, and provide customers with visibility into development.
Reduce Time Spent on Project ManagementImprove Governance
With the Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and Project Server Integration Feature Pack, TechResult project managers can accomplish their tasks more efficiently. Where they used to spend six hours per project per week, now that they no longer have to check with developers about project statuses, they spend less than two hours.
“With Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and Project Server Integration Feature Pack, we are saving 70–80 percent of the time that project managers used to spend talking about status updates,” Oliveira says.
Apply Project Management to Development Tasks
Because TechResult now has a bridge between Project Server 2010 and Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, its project managers can better apply their skills and insights to development tasks. “With project managers involved in creating tasks, we are improving our solution design,” says Oliveira. “Project managers use the Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and Project Server Integration Feature Pack to gain more visibility into the development process.”
Furthermore, they accomplish this goal without forcing developers to change their work habits or practices. “The developers can live and breathe in Visual Studio,” Oliveira says. “The feature pack automatically sends status information to Project Server 2010. Our developers are very happy to not have to enter data in Project Server 2010 themselves.” Because they no longer have to enter data or spend as much time talking with project managers, developers save three to five hours per week of work they generally disliked.
TechResult can use the accurate, up-to-date information in Project Server 2010 to improve the standards and governance of the organization, raising its maturity model. On a basic level, this means that TechResult can now send reliable invoices and other financial documents to all of its clients directly from Project Server 2010. “Thanks to the feature pack, we know that the financial picture in Project Server 2010, which we are often required to use, is the true picture,” Oliveira says.
At a deeper level, TechResult is also using the accuracy of this data to standardize its processes. “Many of our projects are similar, and for some time we have wanted to have comprehensive historical information on our development of certain features,” Oliveira says. “Now, with the feature pack, we can use Project Server 2010 to extract data in reports that help us better predict the effort and total cost of the life cycle of a project.”Make More Informed Decisions
TechResult uses the Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and Project Server Integration Feature Pack to better understand potential risks and make smarter decisions. “When accurate data was not integrated into Project Server 2010, sometimes we did not realize quickly enough that a project was running behind schedule or over budget. With the feature pack linking Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 to Project Server 2010, we have eliminated those unpleasant surprises,” says Oliveira.
The timely and accurate data improves those decisions and many others, including evaluations of team effectiveness. “We are making better decisions now, for sure,” says Oliveira. “When I didn’t have visibility or accurate information, it was more of a guess. With the feature pack, it’s a data-driven decision.”Enrich Relationships with Customers
Using the Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and Project Server Integration Feature Pack to strengthen its project management, TechResult is enriching its relationships with its clients. “We can provide our clients with more visibility into our development,” says Oliveira. “We can show them dashboards containing status reports with accurate data direct from Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010.”
TechResult can provide customers with not only visibility but also responsiveness. “Because we have data from all of the work items in Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, we can generate all sorts of reports,” Oliveira says, citing as an example the response-time reports. “We also have access to information we didn’t have before, such as time spent on maintenance and debugging.”
As a result, TechResult expects to be more competitive in its market. “Other firms may say to clients, ‘OK, thanks for the contract, we’ll see you in three months.’ But with the feature pack, we’ll be able to provide regular progress reports and updates showing our clients what we’re doing with their money,” Oliveira says. “I think they will respond very favorably to that.”Microsoft Project Server 2010
Microsoft Project Server 2010 brings together the business collaboration platform services of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 with structured execution capabilities to provide flexible work management solutions. Project Server 2010 unifies project and portfolio management to help organizations align resources and investments with business priorities, gain control across all types of work, and visualize performance through powerful dashboards.
For more information about Microsoft Project Server 2010, go to:For More Information
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